RV Winterizing Guide: Helpful Tips & Special Considerations
RV Winterizing Guide: Helpful Tips & Special Considerations
Detailed instructions on how to prepare your rolling home for winter.
By: Kenny & Sabrina Phillips
For some RVers, winter can be the saddest time of the year. It marks the end of the camping season, and it could mean it’s time to winterize the RV and put it in storage for the cold weather ahead. But don’t fret because, in this article, I will show you how easy winterizing your RV on your own can be.
Disclaimer: The steps and tips outlined here are based on my personal experience with my Class A Winnebago Vista and are meant to be a general guide, but some things may differ depending on your type of RV. Always read your owner’s manual thoroughly before beginning any type of maintenance on your RV for the first time. Winnebago manuals are available online here.
Why Winterize Your RV Yourself?
There are many advantages to winterizing your RV on your own, one of which is saving money; you could save around $100 by doing this yourself.
Another great advantage of having the knowledge of how to winterize your RV is you will be able to do it on your own schedule. So, if there is some warm weather coming, you will be able to take your RV out for a nice trip and winterize it yourself quickly when you return home.
Two Ways to Winterize Your RV
The two most common ways to winterize an RV is either by the wet method or the dry method.
For the wet method, you will use RV antifreeze. This is a pink fluid antifreeze found in almost any store that sells RV accessories. This antifreeze is a food-grade product, that doesn’t mean to go ahead and start mixing it in your favorite drink, but it is safe to use in your RV plumbing, including your freshwater lines.
The dry method uses compressed air to dry out all of the lines in your RV. It takes a little bit more tools than the wet method, such as an air compressor, a pressure regulator, and a blow-out plug. But once all of your lines are thoroughly blown out, there is no water left in your systems to freeze up.
In this article, I will mostly talk about the wet method because this is how I have always winterized my RV. To me, it is the simplest way, and even the dry method still requires the RV antifreeze to go into your P-traps (curved part of your plumbing that helps reduce odors), washer units, and toilet. I feel that if I have to buy the antifreeze anyway, then I might as well do the whole system with the wet method.
Getting Started: Winterizing Your RV Using Antifreeze
To get started on winterizing your RV using the wet method, you will need:
- two gallons of RV antifreeze (check your manual, some RVs may require a bit more)
- a socket wrench or flat wrench to remove your water heater drain plug
- possibly a winterizing kit that connects to your water pump; however, most Winnebago’s have this installed.
That is it for tools. Pretty easy so far!
Step One: Turn Off Your Water Heater
The very first step that I want you to do is to turn off your water heater. I prefer this to be done the night before. You don’t want any hot water in your water heater tank during winterization. This is for your safety - when you remove your drain plug, you want the water to be at room temperature as not to scald you.
Step Two: Empty Tanks
Next thing I like to do is empty and clean our black tank, then empty our gray and freshwater tanks.
When you drain the freshwater tank, it is recommended that you also open all low point drains to allow all the water to drain from the system – just be sure to close them before adding antifreeze. This just means less fresh water to displace when adding the antifreeze.
Now with the water disconnected to the city and the water pump off, open the pressure relief valve to the water heater to make sure there is no pressure in the system.
Then, with your socket wrench or flat wrench, remove your water heater drain plug and allow all of the water in the tank to empty. Some water heaters will have a plastic drain plug, and some will be a metal plug with what is called an anode rod. This is a good time to inspect the anode rod and see if it needs replacing before your next camping trip.
With all of the water drained from the tank, you can go ahead and close the pressure relief valve.
Step Three: Bypass the Water Heater
Now for the fun part that I think everyone gets a little nervous about: we are going to bypass the water heater so that no antifreeze enters it.
This can be a bit tricky because the bypass valves are in different locations depending on the RV you have. But, typically, the valves are near the back side of the water heater - this can be in a cabinet inside the RV, under the sink, or - in my case - under a floor panel in my rear cargo bay.
The location of the bypass valves can be found in your Winnebago manual, along with the direction that you need to turn the valves. You may have up to three valves that work together to bypass the water heater. In my RV, Winnebago has made it easy with a one-valve setup.
With a three-valve setup, you are turning the inlet and outlet valves to a closed position and turning the third valve that runs in between those two valves to an open position. It will make more sense when you see it in your manual, so be sure to look there first.
Step Four: Run the Antifreeze Through
Now it is time to run the RV antifreeze through your plumbing system. If your Winnebago is like mine, it already has a winterizing kit that was preinstalled by the factory. This is a clear tube that connects to the water pump. You simply remove the white cap from the end of the clear tube and place the tubing down inside one of your RV antifreeze gallon containers.
If your RV does not have this kit preinstalled, no worries - you can buy these on Amazon, and you simply connect it to your inlet valve of your water pump. With the kit installed, your water pump will now pull the antifreeze out of the gallon container instead of pulling water from your freshwater tank.
With the winterizing kit tube in the RV antifreeze container and your valve turned to open, turn your water pump on and go inside the RV bathroom to turn on the hot faucet in the sink and wait to see the pink RV antifreeze come out of the faucet. Once you see the pink fluid, turn that off and turn on the cold.
Repeat these steps for your shower, your kitchen sink, and any secondary bathrooms. Flush your toilets until you see the RV antifreeze, and don’t forget to go outside and run this same procedure for your outdoor showers - it’s an easy one to forget!
While you are going through the procedure, go back to your water pump and check your RV antifreeze container, you may have to switch to a fresh bottle depending on the size of your rig and how long your plumbing is.
After you attend to each faucet, outdoor shower, and toilets, pour some of the RV antifreeze into each of your drains, this is just to be sure that all of your P-traps get some RV antifreeze into them as well.
Winterization Considerations for Specific RV Features
These next steps will be for anyone that has a whole-house water filter, ice maker, and/or washing machine. If this does not apply to you, jump down to the next section of the article titled ‘Tips for RV Storage.’
Whole-House Water Filter
If you have a whole-house water filter, all you need to do is unscrew the canister, remove your water filter and screw the canister back in place.
If you have a washing machine, the best thing to do is consult your manual.
But I can tell you the most common RV washer is the Splendide washer, and the way to winterize it is to:
- Turn the power off and turn your advance cycle selector to position 3.
- Then press the on/off button and set water temperature to warm, and press start.
- Let the machine fill until you see the drum start to spin. Then press the on/off button again to power off the unit.
- Turn the advance cycle selector from position 3 to position Spin, press the on/off button, then press start.
- After letting the RV antifreeze drain completely from the drum, press the on/off button to turn the power off, and you are now finished with the washer/dryer.
If you have an ice maker, go to the access panel of your RV refrigerator that is located on the outside of your RV. Unscrew the water supply line and let any water in the line drain out.
Go back inside the RV and allow the refrigerator to run through a cycle, raise the wire shut-off arm to the off position, and dispose of any ice in bin.
You can now go back outside and reconnect the water supply line, and your ice maker is now good to go for the winter.
Tips for RV Storage
When wintering your RV is complete, you can turn off your water pump, place the white cap back onto your winterizing kit, and reinsert your water heater drain plug. Your RV is now ready to be stored for the next time you want to take it out, but you should take some additional steps before locking it up for winter.
Pay Special Attention to Your Batteries
When storing your RV, don’t forget about your batteries. If you have a motorized RV, don’t forget this includes your chassis batteries as well.
You can go about keeping the batteries charged in a few different ways. If you have solar installed on your RV, that will take care of the house batteries if parked outside.
If not, then you may want to look at a trickle charger kit, preferably a solar battery charger, because not all storage facilities will have access to power. If your RV does have access to shore power, you can plug it in from time to time to charge those house batteries back up.
Chassis batteries are a bit different, though, because they will not charge from your solar panels on the roof, and they do not charge from being plugged into shore power either.
The best way to charge chassis batteries, and the way I recommend, is by starting your RV once a month and taking it for a drive. This is not only good for your batteries but also for your chassis, tires, engine, and transmission.
Don’t Forget Your Generator
It is good practice to “exercise” your RV. And if equipped with a generator, this is a great time to start it and run it for a little bit as well.
When maintaining your coach in the offseason, it’s recommended to run your generator for half an hour each month. Stale fuel in a generator carburetor may cause damage that would require replacement.
Take Additional Steps If Not Driving at All
If your RV is going to be stored in an area that is too far for you to visit it or you live in an area where weather does not permit you to drive it monthly, then I suggest adding some fuel stabilizer to your fuel tank and adding a solar battery charger to your chassis battery as well. This will keep everything topped off and ready to go for next camping season.
When Camping Season Begins Again
When winter has ended and the new camping season begins, be sure to come back to WinnebagoLife for these tips on de-winterizing your RV from the Bajuelos.
Take care, everyone. And I wish you safe travels!